BHUBANESWAR: A day after the tragic capsizing of a rescue boat in swollen Mahanadi river near Mundali claimed two lives, preliminary inquiry suggested the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) team may have acted on its own to get into the river and even allowed journalist Arindam Das and his cameraman on board.
Sources said that it was Athagarh Divisional Forest Officer who had sent a requisition to deploy a team of ODRAF and keep the personnel on stand-by. The Mundali bridge was choc-a-bloc with onlookers to have a glimpse of the elephant stuck in the flooded river. Besides, the entire task was by the river which is why the officer wanted the ODRAF team at the spot for exigency purposes.
However, the Forest officials were surprised to see the inflated boat enter the water from the other side with the two journalists. "There was very little we could do from there on. Had we known, they were getting into the river, we could have at least sent our forest staff with the ODRAF personnel. Else, driving the jumbo from the river makes no sense," said reliable sources requesting anonymity.
Out of five ODRAF personnel, one lost his life along with Arindam in what turned out to be a tragic incident on an otherwise simple exercise. Meanwhile, DGP Abhay has ordered a probe into the mishap and ADG (Law and Order) RK Sharma will conduct an inquiry into the incident. “As part of the inquiry, it will also be probed who allowed Arindam and his cameraman to board the boat,” said a senior police officer.
Sources said more details will emerge after the rescue team’s personnel and the regional news channel’s cameraman, currently undergoing treatment at SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack, are questioned in connection with the accident. Meanwhile, ODRAF 6th Battalion’s personnel Sitaram Murmu’s body was recovered near Kakhadi village in Cuttack district 24 hours after he went missing near Mundali barrage.
Murmu is survived by his wife, a 12-year-old son and four-year-old daughter. He had joined ODRAF in 2013 and was a part of 6th Battalion’s skilled scuba diving team. A senior ODRAF officer said he was shocked after coming to know that Murmu died due to drowning .
“Murmu is an expert swimmer and the scuba diving team’s members have excellent skills to carry out rescue operations in difficult circumstances. There is a possibility that he might have sustained injury and become unconscious after being thrashed by the strong current and getting hit with the barrage,” he added.